§ Mr. John Marshall (Hendon, South)
Anyone who visits Cyprus is affected in two quite different ways—first by the beauty of that delightful island, and secondly by the tragedy of its continued division. It is because of that that I make no apology for initiating yet another debate on Cyprus.
Obviously, there will be a certain repetition in the speeches in the debate, simply because the issues have not changed. The fundamental injustices remain. When I first visited Cyprus, soon after the events of 1974, there was initially a spirit of optimism that the late President Makarios might secure a settlement. However, despite frequent attempts by the United Nations to broker a settlement, nothing has changed fundamentally since then.
In August, we shall celebrate the 50th anniversary of VJ day, the coming of peace and the end of the last war. That historic day will be a day of great meaning for the President of Cyprus, who took part in that war as an airman on the allied side. We are also about to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the formation of the United Nations, which was meant to usher in a better world.
However, later this year, there will be another anniversary—the 21st anniversary of the invasion of Cyprus by the Turks in 1974. That is no cause for celebration. It is no coming of age. All the Cypriots will be doing is seeking the key to the door—the key to the door of the Turkish Cypriots, who have caused the island to remain divided for 21 years. Instead of a divided island, the Cypriots want a united island. Instead of an army of occupation, they want the restoration of democracy throughout the island. Instead of their homes being full of settlers from Turkey, the refugees want to be free to return to them.
The relatives of the missing persons want to know what has happened to their loved ones in the past 21 years. After such a delay, it is natural that they should dread the worst, but hope springs eternal in the human breast and they continue to hope for the best. They want at least an end to the uncertainty. If they are still alive, the missing persons will have changed dramatically. Children have become adults, middle-aged people have become pensioners and the young may well have become middle-aged grandparents without the joy of knowing their grandchildren.
The uncertainty about the fate of the missing persons demonstrates the inhuman legacy of 1974. Children have been denied the knowledge of what has happened to their parents and wives the knowledge of what has happened to their husbands. It is a tribute to the loyalty of the Cypriots that they have remained loyal to the memories of their loved ones and have not, in spite of a gap of 21 years, sought to remarry and set up new relationships.
I remember seeing the green line for the first time in the 1970s. I remember going back to the green line about two years ago with my hon. Friends the Members for Basildon (Mr. Amess)—he does move outside Essex sometimes, Madam Deputy Speaker—and for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns), who this morning has to adopt the Trappist vows of the Whips Office, as does my hon. Friend the Member for Chipping Barnet (Mr. Chapman), who is a staunch supporter of Cyprus.
730 When one visits the green line, one can see the shops on the Turkish side. They were once thriving businesses. One sees the shops empty, and the signs of a sudden withdrawal. I shall always remember looking at a tailor's shop in which cloth remained on display in the window because the tailor had assumed, when he left, that he would be able to return in a matter of months, if not weeks.
I remember talking to someone in 1979, who said that, when he left his home in the north, his father made a special effort to take the title deeds with him because he hoped to be able to return shortly. Twenty-one years later, the title deeds have become greyer, the print on them has become lighter, but there is no possibility today of their returning to that home tomorrow.
When I was in Cyprus with my hon. Friends the Members for Chelmsford and for Basildon, I spoke to the mayor in exile from Famagusta. We went to Famagusta, and from its borders we could see people pointing out, but unable to go and live in, the homes that had been their family houses for generations. They knew that those houses were now occupied by settlers from Turkey rather than by their family.
One thinks of the hotel keepers of Varosha, whose hotels were bombed in 1974. Until then, Varosha had been a mecca for Mediterranean tourists. Today, it plays host to rats and stray dogs. Those half-destroyed hotels are a monument to the indifference of the world to the fate of Cyprus. One thinks of the orange groves of Cyprus, tended by generations of Greek Cypriots, which are now tended by Turkish settlers.
It is surely unacceptable that about 100,000 people should be forcibly removed from their homes and made to go and live somewhere else.
We must also consider the plight of the small Greek Cypriot enclave in northern Cyprus. Those Greek Cypriots feel cut off from the rest of the world, difficult as it is for visitors to go and see them and impossible as it is for them to go to other parts of Cyprus.
In the state of separatism that has existed since 1974, the northern Cyprus economy has stagnated. Tourism has suffered and real incomes are low whereas, in the southern part of the island, there has been a substantial increase in real incomes.
There is a significant danger that, after 21 years, there may be an institutionalisation of the division of the island. Historically, Turkish and Greek Cypriots lived together in the same villages. They had different religions and different languages, but they lived in the same village and played football, worked and socialised together. However, for a whole generation now, Greek Cypriot has not met Turkish Cypriot and vice versa.
Let us consider what is happening in Cyprus. It becomes much more difficult for the people concerned to regard themselves as Cypriots when they live in northern Cyprus and may well not have seen a Greek Cypriot for a long time.
I am sure that everyone in the House finds the division of the island unacceptable. One can never accept that a family should be forced for ever and a day not to live in what has been their family home. I am sure that everyone would want the resolutions of the United Nations about Cyprus to be honoured by both parties in that country.
Another issue that concerns the House is Cyprus's relations with the European Union, with which Cyprus has sought a closer relationship for a long time. In 1979, 731 when I was merely a candidate for the European Parliament, I met a representative of the Government of Cyprus in Charlie's bar in Nicosia, where we enjoyed the most excellent mezze. He said that he wanted the association agreement between Cyprus and the European Community to be accepted. Cyprus saw that agreement as a stepping stone to a much closer relationship with the European Union.
Cyprus fulfils all of the criteria for admission to the European Union: it is a democracy and it has a successful economy. Cyprus's growth rate in the past decade has been twice that of most countries in the European Union. Its gross domestic product per capita is higher than that of Greece and of Portugal and it conducts more than half its trade with European Union countries. It is a European country because Cyprus is part of the cradle of European civilisation.
That is why I am pleased that the European Union has agreed in principle to consider Cyprus's application as soon as the intergovernmental conference has ended. I regret the fact that consideration of Cyprus's application has been linked to the conclusion of the intergovernmental conference, especially in view of the rumour circulating last week that Chancellor Kohl wants to postpone the conference by a year so that it does not take place before the next British general election. If that were to happen, one would hope that Cyprus's application could be squeezed in some time in 1996 rather than delayed until 1998 or 1999.
I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will confirm this morning that the division of the island can never be used as an excuse to delay Cyprus's application to join the European Union. To do so would present to the minority on the island the right of veto over the majority view. Only one Government in Cyprus is recognised by the European Union and we must negotiate with, and talk to, that Government. It would be quite wrong for a regime that is not recognised by the European Union to have the right of veto over the actions of the Government of Cyprus.
As to Turkey's application to join the European Union, I expect the Union to adhere to the policy of Her Majesty's Government and not to consider that application until there is a solution to the Cyprus problem. Obviously, if Turkey, Cyprus and Greece were members of the European Union, that might solve many of the political problems in that part of the world. However, I do not think that Turkey can be a member of the European Union while the Cypriot problem remains unresolved.
I said in this place on a previous occasion that peace in the middle east will be achieved by a series of building blocks. We have seen that in the relationship between Israel and her neighbours. Camp David was followed by agreements between Prime Minister Rabin and Mr. Arafat which have led to self-rule in Gaza and Jericho and which may have further benefits. That is why confidence-building measures between the two communities in Cyprus are essential in order to bring about a final solution to the problems.
§ Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford)
Does the hon. Gentleman agree that the confidence-building measures should be implemented without any conditions?
§ Mr. Marshall
I think that it would he going too far to say that the measures should he implemented without any conditions. I am reminded of the occasion when a prayer for peace in Northern Ireland was said in St. Margaret's 732 church in Westminster. The former Member for South Down, Mr. Enoch Powell, was a member of the congregation and when the vicar said, "We pray for peace in Northern Ireland," Mr. Powell asked, "But on what terms?" It would be quite wrong to expect the Greek Cypriots to agree to confidence-building measures while the island remained divided.
§ Mr. Taylor
I thank the hon. Gentleman for giving way again on that very important point. If he disputes the qualification "without any conditions", does he agree with the alternative view—as expressed by Mr. Denktash, the head of the Turkish Cypriot community—that both sides of the argument should accept the confidence-building measures on the bases proposed and recommended by the United Nations?
§ Mr. Marshall
There is a lot of evidence that Mr. Denktash is dragging his feet on the matter. We hoped that a series of meetings would take place when representatives of the two communities visited London recently. The right hon. Member for Strangford (Mr. Taylor)—whom I used to call an hon. Friend in another Parliament—will know that only one meeting took place in London and that the Turkish Cypriots did not give any sign that they wished to talk with the Greek Cypriots. The initiative in those meetings lay with President Clerides, who agreed to them. It then transpired that the Turkish Cypriots had no desire to reach any resolution.
Confidence-building measures in Varosha and Nicosia would benefit both Greek and Turkish Cypriots. Today, Varosha is a mausoleum. It was once home to some of the finest hotels in Europe, but today it is a resting place for dead rats, mice, cats and dogs, and offers employment to no one. If the hotels in Varosha could be rebuilt, tourism in northern Cyprus would flourish and employment opportunities could be developed to the benefit of both communities, as the United Nations has pointed out.
The reopening of Nicosia international airport would benefit the Turkish community. At present, Turkish Cypriots do not have direct international flights, other than those to and from Turkey. If Nicosia international airport were reopened, tourism would benefit, exports would increase and real incomes would rise. It would also remove the feeling of isolation from which the Turkish Cypriots must suffer. The failure of the confidence-building measures suggests that there is a spirit of bloody-mindedness—
§ Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne)
Does my hon. Friend recall the comment attributed to Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali that talks had failed because of a lack of political will on the Turkish Cypriot side?
§ Mr. Marshall
I think that I have said broadly the same thing—although with none of the eloquence of the representative of the United Nations and of my hon. Friend. I believe that the Greek Cypriots have demonstrated a desire to reach a settlement—President Clerides certainly did so by agreeing to talks in London.
What can we do to try to resolve the situation? The military option was ignored in 1974 when British troops were stationed on the island and Turkish forces might have been prevented from landing. Having abandoned that option in 1974, we must now adopt a carrot-and-stick approach. I believe that the confidence-building measures will be the incentives for the Turkish Cypriots.
733 On the negative side of the equation, we must make it clear that the British Government will never recognise the Denktash regime, that we will not trade with northern Cyprus and that we will welcome Cyprus into the European Union. Of course, that is only part of the solution. I believe that it is high time, nearly 21 years after the events of 1974, for an international conference on Cyprus. I would also like to think that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary might visit Cyprus in the not too distant future. President Eisenhower won the 1952 presidential election with the promise:I shall go to Korea.I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will be able to say that if he will not go to Cyprus, at least the Foreign Secretary might do so.
§ Mr. Tom Cox (Tooting)
As always, I warmly congratulate the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) on again giving the House the opportunity to discuss Cyprus. I believe that there is no Parliament in the world, outside Cyprus, that discusses the issue more than we do.
As the hon. Gentleman said, next month Cypriots and their friends in Cyprus, in the United Kingdom and, indeed, throughout the world, and their friends, will be remembering those dark, brutal days when Cyprus was invaded by the Turkish army in 1974. I and many other people believe that there has been so little progress after nearly 21 years because of the lack of decisive action by British Governments, whether Conservative or Labour. I hope that this debate will give both the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East (Ms Quin) the opportunity to tell us how they see the issue.
I shall follow up many of the points made by the hon. Member for Hendon, South. No one can say that enormous efforts have not been made over the years to try to get an honourable settlement. Sadly, they have always collapsed and there is no doubt whatsoever why. No matter who has been involved in intercommunal talks or confidence-building measures, they have always come to the same conclusion: the problem is the attitude of Mr. Denktash and his friends and supporters in Turkey.
There can be no greater indictment of Denktash than that made last July by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who said that the lack of progress in the talks that he had been requested to make on behalf of the Security Council was due entirely to the actions of Mr. Denktash.
§ Mr. Cox
No, I shall not give way. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ah!"] I am not frightened to give way, but many hon. Members wish to speak. I shall not give way because of the time.
What saddens me and many other hon. Members, as the hon. Member for Hendon, South rightly said, is that it is the Turkish Cypriots who suffer most. One sees ample evidence of that and the Minister must know it. We know that there are contacts between Government officials and people in northern Cyprus. We know the conditions in the 734 economy—the lack of investment, the enormous unemployment, the extremely high rate of inflation and the decline of the tourist industry.
Against that background, I believe that Mr. Denktash has, like many of the old leaders of the former communist eastern European countries, closed his eyes and ears to the devastation that he is causing in the country to which he claims to be so committed. That is why this debate is so important. The issue of Cyprus is in a new phase now that an application has been made by the Republic of Cyprus to join the European Union.
I hope to hear this morning a firm commitment from the Government and the Opposition that Britain supports that application and totally rejects the statement of the Prime Minister of Turkey, Mrs. Ciller, in the United States earlier this year that the solution to the Cyprus problem will be found only when Turkey is admitted to the European Union. We must make it loud and clear to her and to her Government that under no circumstances whatsoever will that be a trading point.
I am sure that the Minister is aware of the some of the points that I intend to make. Two days ago, the EU-Cyprus Association Council met in Luxembourg at ministerial level. It further supported Cyprus's application for membership of the Union. That meeting built on a meeting in Brussels on 8 June this year, which again gave clear guidelines. I have a copy of the document discussed in Brussels, which no doubt the Minister will have seen, and which gives clear guidelines for the structured dialogue that will take place between the European Union and Cyprus.
The document states:The existing political dialogue between Cyprus and the EU on CFSP issues will be extended to include, in addition to the above mentioned meetings at the highest level and at Ministerial level, the following meetings and practices".The document goes on to outline a whole range of issues that will be discussed in future meetings. That clearly shows the House and the Republic of Cyprus, and most certainly it will show Turkey and Mr. Denktash, that there is no stopping the application of Cyprus for membership of the European Union.
I briefly mentioned the meeting in Luxembourg on Monday and I shall quote some of the comments that were made at the meeting and in the document that was produced. The document states:The European Union will do all it can to ensure that the period remaining until the start of accession negotiations will be put to good use in redoubling efforts to find a comprehensive settlement of the Cyprus question.The Council was also concerned by the problem of the great difference in the level of development between the island's two communities. It thus felt that Cyprus's accession to the EU should bring increased prosperity for both communities on the island, allowing the North to catch up economically and improving the outlook for employment and growth, particularly for the Turkish-Cypriot community. The Council therefore considered that the advantages of Cyprus's accession to the EU needed to be perceived more clearly by the Turkish-Cypriot community.I have two further quotations from the document; first, it states:The recent initiative of the President of the French Republic, President of the European Council, inviting Cyprus to meet the Heads of State and Government at the next European Council in Cannes is a further indication of the Union' s commitment to a course of action to reinforce the special relationship that already exists between us.735 Secondly, it states:Cyprus's accession will be in the interests of all Cypriots. It, of course, goes without saying that the Republic of Cyprus remains the sole negotiating partner for the European Union.I hope that both the Minister and my hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East will endorse the comments made in Monday's Luxembourg declaration and say most certainly that only the Republic of Cyprus will be involved in any discussion about the accession of Cyprus to the European Union.
§ Mr. Stephen Day (Cheadle)
Who does the hon. Gentleman think will speak for the Turkish people when it comes to the application by Cyprus to join the European Union? It has been recognised in many UN documents that there are two communities and two peoples in Cyprus. Does the hon. Gentleman believe that the present Government of the Republic of Cyprus, who are exclusively Greek Cypriot, can really speak for the Turkish Cypriot people?
§ Mr. Cox
The hon. Gentleman raises an important issue. As the hon. Member for Hendon, South and I have said, Mr. Denktash had ample opportunity to speak for the people of northern Cyprus had he wished to do so. I have already commented on the statement made by the Secretary-General of the United Nations about the reason for the lack of progress. Even as progress gets under way, I am sure that if Mr. Denktash wanted to show good will, interest and support for Cyprus's application, President Clerides of the Republic of Cyprus would welcome it.
§ Mr. Cox
The right hon. Gentleman might say "Ah," but I am not giving way because I have no doubt that he will wish to speak later.
There is no going back, and we need to make that very clear to Mr. Denktash. I hope that my Front-Bench colleague will make it clear that there is no going back on Cyprus's application and that Mr. Denktash and his friends in Turkey must be told once and for all that we have had enough of their behaviour and of their stalling tactics over the past 21 years. The hon. Member for Cheadle (Mr. Day) raised an important issue, but I should like to know what he has been saying to Mr. Denktash about the efforts that have been made in those 21 years and the repeated indictment of Mr. Denktash and his lack of meaningful involvement in, or support for, an honourable settlement.
The message sent from the House today should be that the future of Cyprus—the whole of Cyprus—lies in membership of the European Union. Those of us who support that aim fully recognise that the rights of Greek and Turkish Cypriots must be safeguarded. Thankfully, I believe that we now see the beginning of an end to the tragedy that Cyprus has suffered for so nearly 21 years.
§ 12.2 pm
§ Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne)
I am delighted to have the opportunity to participate in another debate on Cyprus. I, too, congratulate my hon. Friend the Member 736 for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) on securing the debate. It is also a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox), who made such a powerful speech.
Cyprus matters to many people in this country who have links with it or have been there. It also matters to right hon. and hon. Members of all parties. There are some 300,000 Cypriots from both communities living in the United Kingdom, and there is a small but active and well-respected Greek Cypriot community in my constituency. The links between our two countries are very close, and long may they remain so.
The main tragedy of the division of the island, about which more than one hon. Member has spoken, is that a whole generation of people has grown up on both sides of the green line not knowing and not going to school with people from the other community. I find it interesting to meet members of earlier generations of Cypriots from both communities who always say that they have old school or college friends from the other side of the line, but that possibility of gaining a perspective on the problems of Cyprus is not open to the generation of people who have grown up since 1974.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South referred eloquently and rightly to the tragedy of the 1,619 missing Greek Cypriots of whom there is still no news. For their friends and families, that tragedy is as fresh and appalling today as it was 20 years ago.
The process that brought us to where we are today began largely with the events of 1983 and the so-called "UDI", or unilateral declaration of independence, by the regime in the north and the establishment of the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a state—if I can use that word—which is still to be recognised by any part of the international community other than Turkey. In 1992, Dr. Boutros-Ghali proposed a set of ideas for a settlement providing a unitary but also bizonal, bicommunal federal state which has been bandied back and forth ever since.
As has been said, in March 1993 a package of confidence-building measures was introduced in respect of Varosha and Nicosia airport. It is one of life's unpleasant experiences to look across that suburb of Famagusta-Varosha and see the waste of property, human endeavour and economic resources.
It is fair to say that, throughout the discussion on the CBMs, President Clerides has accepted with open arms almost all the terms put to him, but there came a point when he, like many of us, took the view that the CBMs were becoming an end in themselves. Because there seemed to be no apparent progress in the short or medium term, it seemed that the CBMs would drag on. There was a real danger, not only in Cyprus but in the international community, that we would all lose sight of what the CBMs were for, which was to lay the groundwork for an overall settlement of the Cyprus problem. There were face-to-face discussions at various times, but they failed to produce results, although the activities of Joe Clark, the UN special representative, deserve praise.
As I mentioned in an intervention, it was Dr. Boutros-Ghali who cited a lack of political will on the part of the Turkish Cypriots as the reason for the failure to make progress. However, progress was made on 6 March this year when the Foreign Affairs Council agreed on the terms of a customs union with Turkey and on accession negotiations with Cyprus to start six months after the end of the intergovernmental conference.
737 I endorse what my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South said about the rumours that the end of IGC might be postponed and hope that the time scale for a solution for the Cyprus negotiations will not be extended.
The agreement also provides for a full and structured dialogue between the EU and Cyprus. Further details were discussed at the EU-Cyprus Association Council in June. It would be difficult not to agree that that was an excellent agreement for Cyprus. It has, rightly, been warmly welcomed by the Cypriot Government. President Clerides praised it and singled out the British Government in particular for their helpful contribution under the French presidency towards the final result. We have a tangible hope of great progress and a final solution of the Cyprus problem.
The communiqué issued in March by the EU Foreign Affairs Council stated:the accession of Cyprus to the EU should lead to greater security and prosperity for each of the island's two communities",which is right and fair. It goes on to state:the accession negotiations will start on the basis of proposals by the Commission six months after the 1996 Conference, and taking its results into due account.The communiqué also confirmsthe EU's intention of continuing to support by all means at its disposal the efforts of the United Nations to achieve a global settlement of the Cypriot question.It is important that we should not lose sight of that, but the document did not make any definite or clear link between the two matters.
As hon. Members have said already, both parts of Cyprus should join the EU together and, ideally, at the same time. It cannot be right, however, that the intransigence of the regime in the north should hold up the accession of the republic. There is a perfectly good precedent in Germany for one part of a state to join followed by another.
As we have heard, the Republic of Cyprus is almost uniquely qualified to join the EU on practically all grounds, especially economic. It is actually rather better qualified than some of the existing members would be, were they applying for membership today.
There are tangible benefits for both communities. It is arguable that the benefits are much greater and more tangible for those living in the north. The population of the occupied area, including the settlers, is some 30 per cent. of that of the south, but the gross national product in 1992 was less than 8 per cent. of the latter. Gross national product per capita was about one quarter of that in the Government-controlled area. Imports were only 9 per cent. of GNP, exports only about 5 per cent. and tourist revenues about 10 per cent. The rate of economic growth was about half that in the area controlled by the republic. It is well known that there are extremely high rates of inflation in the north. I am indebted for some of those figures to the Office for the Study of the Cyprus Problem.
It seems perfectly clear that, although both communities have something to gain, those in the north have most to gain in economic terms. There will be costs of reunification, as there were in Germany, but my impression, from discussing those issues with Greek Cypriots and Ministers, is that they are happy to shoulder those costs and regard the benefits of synergy with both 738 economies united as potentially massive, dealing with the shortage of labour in the south and producing more opportunities for investment in the north once that linkage is made.
It is important that negotiations go ahead in parallel for the intercommunal problem to be resolved, as well as for accession to the European Union. They should go ahead in parallel, but not be directly linked.
I hope, as I am sure all right hon. and hon. Members do, that both will reach fruition at roughly the same time and each will encourage the other, but, at the end of the day, there are two possible results that we cannot possibly accept. One is a permanent partition of the island or even, as has been threatened by Turkish Ministers recently, its integration into Turkey. The other is the possibility of a veto by the north of Cyprus on Cyprus's rapid movement towards membership of the European Union.
§ Mr. John D. Taylor (Strangford)
I have known Greek and Turkish Cyprus for many years. Unlike hon. Members who have spoken previously and who have large Greek Cypriot communities in their constituencies, as several have already declared, I have neither a Turkish Cypriot nor a Greek Cypriot in my constituency; therefore, I am not inclined to take either side.
The fact that there are two sides means that one must consider the point of view of both and not articulate the bias of one side only. As one who wants a settlement in Cyprus, the United Nations confidence-building measures to proceed as rapidly as possible and Cyprus's successful accession into the European Union, I consider it a great disservice to all the people of Cyprus for hon. Members to insult the leaders of one of the two communities On the island.
It was most unreasonable and unhelpful for the hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox), who was fearful to give way to me, to compare President Denktash of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus with communist leaders in East Germany.
Rauf Denktash, the head of the Turkish Cypriot community, was elected in democratic elections in which many political parties participated.
§ Mrs. Barbara Roche (Hornsey and Wood Green)
Does the right hon. Gentleman not recognise that Mr. Denktash leads a regime that is illegal, is not recognised by the United Nations and, apart from Turkey, has no recognition whatever? So it is not acceptable for a democratic institution such as the House to speak about Mr. Denktash's position in the same way as one would speak about the position of President Clerides.
§ Mr. Taylor
The hon. Lady either does not understand or has missed the point. I am referring to the point made by the hon. Member for Tooting, who compared President Denktash with a communist leader in East Germany, no doubt someone like Ulbricht. It is an insulting comparison and totally inaccurate, because there has been democracy in northern Cyprus for many years. Since 1974, there has been election after election with multiple parties taking part including those who represent the left, the centre and the right. In the recent presidential elections, President Denktash was not elected in the first round, as Cyprus has a similar system to France; he was elected in the second round, which shows that there was fair play from 739 beginning to end. It does not help a settlement in Cyprus for hon. Members to demonstrate bias and to insult leaders of one community or the other.
The hon. Member for Tooting said that the trouble commenced in Cyprus following the bloody intervention of the Turkish army in 1974. It is rather like Ireland, as it depends on the date when one starts. In Ireland, I always start with the garden of Eden, because any other date will certainly be wrong.
The hon. Member for Tooting continuously avoids the reality that the troubles in Cyprus started 25 years ago. There has been a division on that island for 25 years but, worse still, the bloody part of it was the overthrow of the elected Greek Cypriot President, Archbishop Makarios, by the friends of some of the people whom the hon. Member for Tooting now supports. President Sampson was a former terrorist who overthrew the elected President of Cyprus supported by the colonels from Athens. The hon. Gentleman conveniently avoids the fact that that started the trouble and the real division of the island in 1974.
We have to move on. Reference has been made to the comments by the United Nations Secretary-General, Dr. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, about the Turkish Cypriots dragging their feet, but we have moved beyond that and there has been progress. We have, first, the United Nations proposals for the confidence-building measures. I support them, and so do the Turkish Cypriots. The Turkish Cypriot President has made it clear that he supports the United Nations proposed package for confidence-building measures and on 16 June 1994 he confirmed his willingness to implement that package.
At that time, it was understood that President Clerides, on behalf of the Greek Cypriots, also supported the confidence-building measures. Like Conservative Members and the hon. Member for Tooting, we want the confidence-building measures to proceed. It would mean the return of thousands of Greek Cypriots to Maras and the reopening of Nicosia international airport, to the advantage of the Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot peoples.
Now, however, there is a problem, and it does not come from the Turkish Cypriots, who accept the confidence-building measures without any preconditions—which the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) was not prepared to do. The Greek Cypriots are now laying down conditions; they are not prepared to implement the UN proposals without conditions. That barrier now lies in the way of implementing the confidence-building measures.
I certainly support the application by Cyprus, together with that by Malta, to join the European Union. The hon. Member for Tooting said that he hoped that the EU would discuss the application with the Greek Cypriot Government. He also gave the impression—perhaps he would like to confirm it—that he was quite prepared for a divided Cyprus to enter the EU before there was a settlement in the island.
§ Mr. Taylor
The hon. Gentleman has confirmed it. That is a major problem, for Cyprus and for Turkey. We in the European Union have had a history of turning our backs on Turkey over the past two decades. Now, as we see other forces arising in the middle east and the eastern 740 Mediterranean area, the EU has belatedly begun to recognise the political importance of a rapprochement between Europe and Turkey. Progress is being made with the implementation of the association agreement between Turkey and the EU—I hope that it is not too late.
If we make the same mistake with Cyprus as Europe has made with Turkey, I fear for the outcome. We must first work for a settlement in Cyprus and then proceed with its accession to full membership of the EU. This is not just my view, or that of the Turks or the Turkish Cypriots. People recognise that going ahead with Cyprus's membership of the EU before there is a settlement can mean only that the Greek Cypriot part of the island will become part of the EU and the Turkish Cypriot part will not; so the Greek Cypriots will have achieved by another means what they have been trying to achieve for many years: enosis with Greece. They will have entered into political and economic union with Athens via membership of the EU.
§ Mr. John Marshall
Does the right hon. Gentleman agree that it is as absurd to talk about enosis with Greece in this case as it would be to say that southern Ireland had achieved a united Ireland by being part of the EU with the United Kingdom?
§ Mr. Taylor
The hon. Gentleman may be more correct than he thinks. The fact that the Republic of Ireland is in the EU with the United Kingdom has, regrettably, encouraged the Conservative Government to produce what are known as the framework documents which would lead to a united Ireland. That is his party's policy at the moment; it is why we shall oppose it in a by-election tomorrow—
§ Mr. Taylor
You certainly will not—you will get 600 votes.
If we bring southern Cyprus alone into the EU, we will drive northern Cyprus—the Turkish Cypriot part of the island—into closer integration with mainland Turkey, which is the last thing we want to happen. I repeat: we want a settlement within Cyprus.
In a recent letter to right hon. and hon. Members, the Foreign Secretary said, in respect of Cyprus joining the EU:We want to see the accession by a federal, bizonal, bicommunal, Cyprus, as foreseen in the United Nations Secretary-General's set of ideas".The right hon. Gentleman thus implies that he wants a settlement in Cyprus before it joins the EU as an entire island. President Clinton says much the same. On 7 March this year, he said that he hoped that Cyprus would enter the European Unionas a federation in which all Cypriots could share the benefits of membership".I want to conclude with comments by the Turkish Cypriots themselves. Hon. Members who have spoken in this debate have given the impression that the Turkish Cypriots are against membership of the EU. They are not—they would benefit from it. It has been rightly pointed out that the Turkish Cypriots are poorly off compared with their rich neighbours in Greek Cyprus. One reason for that is that the outside world recognises only Greek Cyprus, and all the international funding, from 741 the World bank, the United Nations, and so on, goes to the Greek Cypriots. None goes to the Turkish Cypriots, so they are discriminated against and they suffer as a result.
I want to end with a quotation from President Denktash, from a speech that he made during his 14-point peace initiative of 20 January this year:The Turkish Cypriot side is prepared to discuss the subject of European Union membership of the future Federal Republic of Cyprus within the framework foreseen in the United Nations settle-by dates, once an agreement is reached on a bicommunal, bizonal, federal solution of the Cyprus question and the equal political status of the two peoples in Cyprus is respected.So the Turkish Cypriots have confirmed that they want Cyprus to join the EU, but that there must first be a settlement in the island. Let us make a start with the confidence-building measures which the Turkish Cypriots support and the UN recommended. All we ask is that the Greek Cypriots support them as well, without preconditions.
§ Mr. Hartley Booth (Finchley)
I am grateful to my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) for introducing this important debate. I am probably the most recent returner from Cyprus, as I came back from there at the beginning of last week.
Two important points need to be brought out in this debate. One of them has already been fleshed out by colleagues—the tragedy of Cyprus. I need not go on about that because it has been so well described. One incident from this, my third visit, will serve to highlight the human tragedy and focus our minds.
I was introduced to a lady in her early 40s. Her husband was one of those who went missing nearly 21 years ago, since when she has been waiting for news of him. It is worse than that, however: she cannot remarry and her life is in limbo; her child does not know his father. This is the result of a monstrous cruelty, and any pretensions that the north has to joining the club of the world in which we respect human rights must be thrown on the scrap heap until it is prepared to answer basic human rights questions about where the missing people are. What happened to them? Why are they treated in this way? They have been reduced to living in a cruel limbo.
§ Mr. Day
Has my hon. Friend ever considered the tragedy that overtook Cyprus just before 1974, when there was a terrible civil war between Greek Cypriots and many of them were slaughtered by other Greek Cypriots? Is there not a chance that some of the persons who went missing disappeared then? Let us not just heap all the blame on the Turkish Cypriots—we cannot prove the matter either way.
§ Mr. Booth
My hon. Friend has used the word "war", albeit civil war. In war, certain human rights conventions such as the Geneva convention apply, and we all subscribe to them. No such convention in the free world permits anyone to keep the husband of the lady I have described separated from her and in prison. I accept my hon. Friend's point, but I think that the House should accept my reply. The example that I have given focused my mind on the continuing crisis in Cyprus.
742 I was able to meet President Clerides during my time in Cyprus. I was fortunate in being briefed by the Foreign Office high commissioner before I had the meeting. Critical to me, and to the debate, is Britain's attitude towards the candidacy of Cyprus for entry into the European Union. Cyprus has the 26th largest economy in the world. With only 700,000 people, that is a remarkable performance. It is likely when it enters the EU, as I hope it will, to vote with us. It has a common history with ourselves.
I am glad that we are now saying that Cyprus, as a nation, must come into the EU. I am glad also that the Foreign Office has said that it is in favour of talks beginning next year, six months after the intergovernmental conference. I support the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South that the talks could begin sooner.
The key point is whether Turkey, or effectively the north of Cyprus, has any form of veto on the talks that are to take place. I was clearly briefed by the Foreign Office's representative in Nicosia. It would seem to be our position that, although it would be logical for the north and the south of Cyprus to come together before talks begin, the talks are scheduled to start before there is such an agreement. I was told that there is no veto in the hands of the north. Members have talked about the necessity to allow Mr. Denktash, in the north, to arrive at a solution with the south. He has had years to do that. Time after time, he has had the opportunity to reach an agreement.
The reality is that Mr. Denktash is a puppet of Ankara. It must be accepted that, with the placement of 35,000 troops in northern Cyprus, that area is no more than a vassal state of Ankara. We represent so many people who have come from Cyprus and we want to ensure that both Turkish and Greek Cypriots are given a good deal. We must accept, however, that there is an occupying army in the north of the island. First, we must put pressure on Ankara and not only on Mr. Denktash, the leader of a vassal state.
We have inherited democracy from Greece and Greek Cypriots. Those of them who talk about democracy have an accord with those of us who hold democracy dear. We in this place know the heritage of the past with Cyprus. We want to see Cyprus in Europe. Indeed, we want to see it in the EU. We owe it to Cyprus to support freedom on that island and to support its free entry into Europe.
§ Mrs. Barbara Roche (Hornsey and Wood Green)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) on his good fortune and effort in securing the debate. It is a timely debate, given the talks that were held in London less than a month ago. We have all gathered that the talks were extremely disappointing. Indeed, the Foreign Secretary told me during Foreign and Commonwealth questions on 7 June thatthey did not make as much progress as we had wished".—[Official Report, 7 June 1995; Vol. 261, c. 203.]One of the reasons for the disappointment was that Turkish-Cypriot attitudes had not changed. Britain was considering what further steps to take.
§ Mr. Anthony Coombs (Wyre Forest)
One of the problems over the past 21 years has been the shifting positions of Mr. Denktash on the heads of agreement, 743 which were agreed in 1982 against the background of a federal solution that was hizonal and bicommunal. Is it not therefore time, as my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) said, for an international conference to ensure that all aspects of the Cyprus problem are examined? The United Nations policy, in trying over the past 21 years to shuffle off to the two communities responsibility for bringing about a peace settlement, has not proved to he effective.
§ Mrs. Roche
I take on board what the hon. Gentleman has said.
It is important for the British Government to use the fact that it is a guarantor power to make every effort to make it clear that one of the reasons for the failure of talks has been the intransigence of Mr. Denktash and Turkish-Cypriot attitudes. I hope that the Minister will tell us from where Britain goes forward now and what Britain will do as a guarantor power to get meaningful talks under way.
Two great issues are the missing people and enclaved families. I know that the figure has already been mentioned, but 1,619 Cypriots are still missing following the invasion and occupation of 1974. We know that President Clerides announced a new initiative in January and pledged to step up efforts to discover the fate of those Cypriots.
The hon. Member for Finchley (Mr. Booth) talked rightly about the great human tragedies behind the fate of the missing people. Bearing in mind the fact that we are a guarantor power with obligations, and taking account of the international conventions and agreements to which the Government are a subscriber, I look forward to hearing what the Minister has to say about the missing people.
Enclaved people represent a great and increasing problem. Greek Cypriots who are living in the occupied area of the north are facing severe harassment. About 20.000 Greek Cypriots lived in the area just after the Turkish invasion. There are now fewer than 500. They are mostly elderly. That is the situation despite the signing of an agreement in 1975 by Mr. Denktash guaranteeing that Greek Cypriot families would have freedom of movement and basic human rights. Those guarantees have not been honoured. One lady in this position is a primary school teacher. She has been subject to constant harassment. In a report in 1994, the UN stated that conditions for the enclavedfall far short of the standard of normal life.Britain is in a unique position and has a responsibility to safeguard the lives of the enclaved families. We need to know the role that the Government are playing in ensuring that basic human rights are upheld.
There has been much discussion about the application made by Cyprus to join the EU. I think that all hon. Members on both sides of the House would like to see Cyprus accede to membership as soon as possible. It is extremely important, however, that we are reassured about the Government's position—namely, that membership does not depend on the resolution of the Cyprus problem, as many people, including Mr. Denktash, would want it to be.
Perhaps I could have the Minister's comments on the remarks of the Prime Minister. Reporting to the House on the Corfu European Council, almost a year ago, the Prime Minister commented: 744It is a considerable way off before Cyprus is likely to be admitted as a member of the Community. Certainly, if the dispute between the north and south is unresolved, it will be extremely difficult for Cyprus to be admitted to the Community … clearly we hope that that dispute will be resolved before it is possible for Cyprus to become a member of the European Union."—[Official Report, 27 June 1994: Vol. 245, c. 567.]I completely reject the tenor of those remarks and would hope to hear a similar rejection from the Minister today. There must be no veto handed to Mr. Denktash on that area.
Both communities in Cyprus, as well as the large number of Cypriots in Britain—particularly in my constituency—have a right to expect that their Government, the British Government who represent them, will use their very best endeavours to bring about a solution to the problem. Britain should play a full part in working towards the removal of Turkish troops from Europe, the ending of the misery of the enclaved people, the right of the refugees to return, and ensuring that Cyprus is able to play its proper part in the world as a united island and country once again.
§ Ms Joyce Quin (Gateshead, East)
I congratulate the hon. Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall) on his good fortune in securing an Adjournment debate on this important subject. I do not know whether he is similarly lucky in the lottery or the football pools, but he certainly seems to do well in House of Commons ballots. I am glad that, once again, he has given us this opportunity.
I know that many hon. Members, on both sides of the House, share the hon. Gentleman's commitment to bring the issue of Cyprus to the attention of the House and the public. Indeed, Opposition Front-Bench Members share that commitment as well, to ensure that the issue is fully debated and that Cyprus is not forgotten, in all the different political, foreign and domestic issues that we are dealing with in the House.
Many hon. Members have spoken from deep knowledge of Cyprus and, indeed, have spoken movingly about their personal sympathy with the plight of families who have suffered because of the division of the island.
In my own brief comments, I shall focus on the current situation in Cyprus, on the prospects for progress and on the particularly important issue of its application to the European Union. In one way, the hon. Member for Hendon, South is right: sometimes, progress seems to have been slow. None the less, things do not stand still in politics, and that is as true of Cyprus as elsewhere.
We have seen a continuation of particular trends, some of which have been highlighted by hon. Members this morning. Economically, the Republic of Cyprus is extremely successful. In that sense, there seems to be very much a growing contrast in the situation in the occupied north, where the standard of living is much lower and is getting lower all the time.
§ Ms Quin
I must apologise to the hon. Gentleman, but I do not intend to give way. Usually, I am keen to give way in debates, but these debates are largely for Back Benchers, and time for Front-Bench Members is very squeezed. I now have only seven minutes and if I give way to the hon. Gentleman, I will then feel honour-bound to give way to other hon. Members.
745 The situation in northern Cyprus is very difficult. We have seen a continuation of the trend of settlement from mainland Turkey into northern Cyprus, and Turkish Cypriots leaving the north. Recently, the Turkish Prime Minister seems to have said something to Mr. Denktash about Turkey not being able to subsidise the north in the long-term future. Although Mr. Denktash is back in power in northern Cyprus, after the elections, none the less, his victory was less decisive than in previous elections, which highlighted the growing discontent and concern in northern Cyprus.
Hon. Members have referred to the importance of negotiations and confidence-building measures. Indeed, reference was made to the situation in Varosha and to the hopes that we had that some progress could be made there, and to the reopening of Nicosia airport, which, as hon. Members pointed out, would be in the interests of Turkish Cyprus and would very much help the position of Turkish Cypriots there. Therefore, it is particularly sad that progress has not been able to be made.
Yet, of course, we know that the search for a settlement, to agree confidence-building measures, must continue. It has to be persevered with. There is really no alternative other than to embark on that course of action. That is particularly true given the application of the Republic of Cyprus to join the European Union. Labour has welcomed that application and we strongly support it. Perhaps I can point out to the House that Labour is already working with its sister party in Cyprus, EDEK, within the European Parliament and the European institutions in preparation for that enlargement and accession.
It is true that, economically, the Republic of Cyprus is nearer to fulfilling the criteria for European monetary union, for example, than many members of the European Union itself. The only criterion on which it is out of line, but not far, is on interest rates. It already fulfils the other criteria. Indeed, if the present Government persist in their European approach, it could mean that Cyprus will be playing more of a role at the heart of Europe than Britain, despite our Prime Minister's claims to be at the heart of Europe.
There will, of course, be economic difficulties. I think that they will he fairly modest in scale, but concern has been expressed about difficulties that particular industries in Cyprus might face, and the situation concerning capital and exchange controls. But there is a great determination on the part of the Republic of Cyprus to make the application to the European Union a successful one. I am very glad that the timetable has been agreed and that negotiations will begin six months after the ending of the IGC.
Some hon. Members talked about a trade-off with Turkey. I very much support my hon. Friends who said that Turkey must not be able to have a veto on the application of Cyprus. I also support their views and share their concern about the question of EU membership for Turkey itself. We know, of course, that Turkey was allowed an association agreement, but I understand that that agreement is partly frozen today because of the legitimate concerns about human rights in Turkey. Perhaps the Minister will give us an update on that situation.
746 There are questions about dealings with the Denktash regime, but I reiterate the point that was made by my hon. Friends that the lines of communication are already open in that respect. We want to use the links that we have to encourage both Turkish Cyprus and Turkey to he ready to negotiate properly and to begin to move towards a settlement. I believe that nobody can doubt that a settlement would be in the interests of all, especially a settlement based on the integrity of the island, and respect for human rights, for minority as well as majority rights. I believe that EU membership can be a way of promoting that and can lead to a situation that would he in the interests of both Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
Federation was mentioned, and there are, of course, many federal examples in the European Union and outside it: the Federal Republic of Germany, the federal arrangements in Spain or, indeed, the federal system in Switzerland. There are all kinds of interesting federal examples that one can look at. Federation must mean respect for human rights and it must, particularly on an island such as Cyprus, take into account the interests of the island as a whole.
My hon. Friend the Member for Hornsey and Wood Green (Mrs. Roche) spoke—quite rightly—of the important British role, because of our position as guarantor power, our strong troop presence on the island, our strong political and social links with the island and the fact that we are a member of the European Union and of the United Nations Security Council. All those factors are important, and give us a particular responsibility. The United States' role is also vital in that respect.
The Labour party is strongly committed to a peaceful resolution of the Cyprus issue. We believe that the occupation must cease and that Cyprus must be reunited, but that full safeguards must be provided for the Turkish minority. The European Union negotiations can be helpful. Indeed, Cyprus's accession to the EU can provide a great opportunity to find a solution, and we should therefore proceed with it as determinedly and expeditiously as possible.
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. Tony Baldry)
This has been all too short a debate on an important subject, but it has been thoughtful, informed and heartfelt, and the whole House owes a debt to my hon. Friend the Member for Hendon, South (Mr. Marshall), who has rightly been steadfast in his determination to ensure that the House considers Cyprus on every possible occasion.
We have heard excellent speeches by my hon. Friends the Members for Eastbourne (Mr. Waterson) and for Finchley (Mr. Booth), and I know that my hon. Friends the Members for Cheadle (Mr. Day), for Wyre Forest (Mr. Coombs) and for Brentford and Isleworth (Mr. Deva) hoped to speak but could not do so because of the limited time. My hon. Friend the Member for Edmonton (Dr. Twinn) specifically told me that he would have liked to be here for the debate but, for other reasons, could not attend.
Of course my hon. Friend the Vice-Chamberlain of Her Majesty's Household and my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, North-East (Mr. Kirkhope), who is a Lord Commissioner to the Treasury, have also taken a keen 747 interest in the debate, although they could not participate in it. Many Opposition Members have taken an equally keen interest.
Of course it is right that our relations with Cyprus and the international efforts to resolve the Cyprus problem should be the regular focus of attention in the House. Cyprus matters to the United Kingdom, and to all of us. We have seen how, since the events of the 1960s and the estrangement of the two communities, mistrust has been allowed to fester and the unhappy situation has been allowed to ossify. As has been said before, nobody has won and everybody has lost by reason of the futile conflict.
The division of Cyprus has been damaging and wasteful. We cannot and do not accept that it should continue indefinitely; we must not and do not resign ourselves to the continued division of the island. A lasting settlement to the Cyprus problem cannot be based on division.
It therefore behoves us, and the international community, to do all that we can to help to resolve that most stubborn of problems. Ultimately, only the two Cypriot communities themselves can do that. But we can help and advise, and we can support, cajole and encourage. We can help the communities to see that with a settlement everybody will win, and nobody will lose.
United Nations Security Council resolution 939, passed in July 1994, called for fundamental and far-reaching reflection on ways of approaching the Cyprus problem in a manner that will yield results. In that context it also called for the earliest possible implementation of confidence-building measures—the proposals to bring life back to the ghost town of Varosha and to reopen the international airport at Nicosia under United Nations control.
The UN Secretary-General gave impetus to the first aspect of the Security Council resolution in October 1994, and invited the two community leaders to talks with his representative in Cyprus. We very much welcomed that as a chance for the two leaders to meet face to face and to get right down to business. Some positive aspects emerged from those contacts, but, sadly, in the end no progress resulted. It was an opportunity missed. Since then the UN has stayed active and has kept talking and encouraging the leaders towards a common perception of the kind of movement that is now needed for real progress to be made. Towards the end of last month representatives from both communities in Cyprus came to London to start another round of exploratory discussions. The talks, which were firmly within the framework of the UN process on Cyprus, were confidential and remain so, but their objective was simply to stoke up momentum for the UN efforts towards a settlement in Cyprus. There were, alas, no startling breakthroughs, but nobody has thrown in the towel. The Americans and ourselves will review the discussions with the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus and with the UN, and will consider with them how the process might now be taken forward.
It is clear that there has not been a period of idleness—not for us, not for the UN and not for the wider international community. We still intend to persevere in seeking a solution.
In another international context there has been a notable phase of activity on Cyprus which, it is probably fair to say, has yielded a greate: sense of progress. I am referring to the application to join the European Union, which has 748 already been mentioned in the debate. The Republic of Cyprus applied to join the EU in July 1990. The European Commission submitted its opinion on Cyprus's application in June 1993, and that opinion confirmed Cyprus's European identity and character, and its vocation to belong to the Community.
In Corfu in June 1994 the Heads of Government of the European Union agreed that Cyprus would be involved in the next stage of enlargement, and that was reaffirmed at the Essen European Council in December 1994. The Commission reviewed the question of Cyprus's accession to the EU in February, and the review confirmed Cyprus's suitability for accession and led to an important further step forward at the Foreign Affairs Council on 6 March.
The Foreign Affairs Council conclusions of 6 March first outlined the circumstances under which accession negotiations will start six months after the end of the 1996 intergovernmental conference. The Council called for progress in the intercommunal dispute, and noted that some useful points had been identified recently. It also stated that accession should benefit both communities in Cyprus. That all amounts to a significant step forward, which has rightly been welcomed by all member states and by the Cyprus Government. It marks further progress by Cyprus towards the objective of EU accession.
At the beginning of this week the decisions taken at the EU's Association Council with Cyprus set out a substantial pre-accession strategy with structured dialogue. So we can continue to make progress even before formal accession negotiations begin.
The conclusions acknowledged what we all wish to see—accession to the EU by a federal, bizonal, bicommunal Cyprus. We want the prospect of EU accession to make a positive contribution to the search for a solution in the island. The sequence that would make best sense, which I know many of us would like to see, is a settlement followed by accession. But let me make it clear to every Member of the House that no party should feel that that gives it a veto over the process. The aim is not to reward intransigence but to create incentives for progress and to ensure that there is real progress in the time scale set by the 6 March conclusions.
There was, however, another significant aspect to those conclusions. The Foreign Affairs Council also called for special attention to be paid to the particular social and economic conditions in northern Cyprus. It asked the Commission to develop a dialogue with the Turkish Cypriot community with the aim of clarifying its concerns about EU membership and considering how those could be dealt with.
We attach a lot of importance to that. We have made clear throughout our hope that the process of EU accession would contribute positively to the search for a solution to the Cyprus problem. Properly understood, the prospect of EU accession should provide additional incentives to both communities to reach a settlement. It is vital that the EU succeeds in assuring both communities that the terms of accession can enshrine and safeguard such a settlement rather than undermining it.
Our objective is to help to realise a workable and enduring settlement. We have no other aim, no hidden agenda. We have actively and wholeheartedly supported the UN Secretary-General and his mission on Cyprus. But, as has been said, we do have a special position, and 749 special responsibilities which we cannot and do not ignore. We are one of the guarantor powers. We have close links with both communities.
Our contribution has to be more than mere encouragement from the touchline. We are determined to play a full and active part in seeking a solution, and an intensive dialogue with both communities in Cyprus is energetically conducted by our high commissioner in Nicosia. I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Finchley will confirm that the closest continuing daily interest is taken in finding out what part we can play in helping to solve the problems. Our role in facilitating the exploratory discussions is another proof of our commitment to progress on Cyprus within the UN framework.
We also need to keep in mind something that has so far not been mentioned today—the fact that there are 400 British soldiers in the UN peacekeeping force in Cyprus. They are there to sustain conditions in which a settlement can be pursued. Those United Kingdom troops are not in Cyprus to vitrify the status quo. The status quo is not acceptable.
750 Within the EU we have been at the forefront of activity over Cyprus. We are fully committed to developing the relationship between Cyprus and the EU, and I must make it clear that we welcome the prospect of Cyprus's eventual accession. That is what we are working towards. That is what we hope to achieve. In March this year, President Clerides singled out the United Kingdom among Eli member states for our helpful contribution over Cyprus. We have been working hard on Cyprus's behalf and we intend to continue to do so.
The recent history of Cyprus is depressing. The present position is totally unsatisfactory, but recognition of that must spur us on to redouble our efforts. A solution can come about only through the consent and reconciliation of the two communities. Above all, that calls for a readiness on their part to negotiate constructively, positively and boldly. We must remain active in establishing a framework within which such a process can take place and in encouraging the necessary dialogue. The UK will remain at the forefront of those international efforts.